By Gavin Arucan | Staff Writer

During my high school career, I had the privilege of attending a private, college preparatory high school before I came to KCC. I attended Hawai‘i Baptist Academy, a known college preparatory and Christian school in Nuʻuanu, from fourth grade, through middle school, all the way up to senior year before graduating.

Because of the expensive $15,000 tuition that towers above even UH Mānoa’s tuition, abundance of AP courses and homework assignments, and counselors discussing college applications with students nearly every month starting from junior year, college seemed like a necessity after graduation. College sort of took on this prominent form in which if you didn’t apply for a college, you were looked down upon. Every single student from my graduating class and other graduating classes from my alma mater are currently attending universities throughout the country, which is uncommon for a lot of high schools.

I completely understand why college was so important to us at HBA. We were drilled from a young age that college was the next major step in life, and we were worked hard by our teachers to prepare us for the day we walk into our first college course. We wouldn’t want to squander the $15,000 per year tuition that our parents paid to allow us to attend a school that prides itself in preparing students for college.

Now that I am actually finishing my first semester at KCC, I can finally judge how well HBA was preparing me for my first semester of college.

At HBA, community college was treated as a joke among students up until college applications really got serious in junior year. While students became more open minded and understanding as they truly began to research colleges, the words “community college” still had a slight negative connotation to it. From my graduating class, only three students, including me, are attending a community college. However, while I still don’t envision myself graduating from KCC, I think that attending community college was one of the smartest decisions I could have made in choosing a college to attend for at least my first year. The tuition is very cheap (around $2700 per semester), compared to my high school, and I could take my core requirements without having to pay more at UH Mānoa or move to a mainland university. The parking is free, the campus isn’t overwhelmingly large, and the heavenly cafeteria food is a refreshing break from the repetitive Sodexo food that my high school and UH Mānoa serves.

The classes I’m taking are also very easy. I don’t think that’s because KCC is a community college, though. Looking back, I think that HBA did a phenomenal job in preparing me academically. From what I’ve heard from other private schools like Punahou and ʻIolani, Hawaiʻi Baptist Academy may give the most homework out of every high school in the state. I remember staying up late almost every night trying to finish the two coinciding class projects and English essay that was due the next day. And that wasn’t a problem because I procrastinated; you literally had an hour of homework from every class (five a day if you exclude the two electives that may or may not give homework) almost every day. I only took one AP course in my senior year (AP Physics), so my friends who were taking two or more had it even rougher. I specifically remember two of my friends who would stay awake until 2 o’clock in the morning seemingly every day. Social lives only existed on a few “No Homework Weekends” (which teachers used as an excuse to assign even more homework for the next Tuesday) and during the quarterly breaks.

By the time I got to college, weekly essays and daily statistics assignments were child’s play. I no longer had to go to a class every day of the week; classes were now every other day with long breaks in between. I had so much free time that I could finish an essay in a few hours and go hiking for the rest of the day. Also, because it’s a community college, none of the classes are huge lecture classes in which you are disconnected from the professor and other students. Much like HBA, teachers are readily accessible and the classes are smaller so it’s easier to get to know a few people.

My friends at UH Mānoa managing their time and grades well enough with their biggest problem being getting to their next class across the campus in time. A few of them have less free time than I do, but I think that’s because of the way they scheduled their classes and because those few people don’t yet have their driver’s license. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays I managed to compact my classes into five hours, three hours, and one hour, respectively, so I have the rest of the day to study and relax. Next semester, I have no class on Friday at all, so I have even more time to study or take another shift at my job. So good class scheduling and grueling academic training have really helped me maintain passing grades in my six college courses.

HBA prepared me well, and maybe over-prepared me, for the academic side of college, which is the key toward succeeding in college. However, there are some aspects of college life that was new to me. I did take a class in my senior year called Family & Consumer Science that taught me what to expect in college, but that class was a semester-long elective. A class like that should be mandatory in a college prep school. When I left HBA, which is a proud Christian high school, it was a little jarring to be thrust into a new campus with a community consisting of many different religions and sexualities. HBA kind of sheltered its students a bit. We were given the occasional lecture about drugs and sex, and we studied other religions in our senior year’s required Christian Thought class, but we were taught and raised in our little happy, Christian bubble in which no real problems ever happened.

In college, you’re a lot more exposed to the real world, and I don’t think I was fully ready for that after graduating from HBA. I think that, without the Family & Consumer Science class, I probably wouldn’t have my job at a movie theater because the class taught me how to succeed in a job interview, but, again, that class was optional. HBA prepared me for college but not for much else in life.

A humorous example of that happened on the morning of my first day of college. As I was getting ready for school, it hit me. “What am I supposed to wear?” I know it’s a silly thought, but I had been wearing HBA’s uncomfortably hot cotton uniform since I enrolled in fourth grade. I wore the same exact thing every single school day for nine years, and, as much as I hated it, it’s a difficult habit to break. If I find myself questioning what clothes are proper for college, there must be something a lot more important that I’ll be questioning somewhere down the line.

I know that nobody is ever fully ready for the responsibilities of life, but when you realize that the only class that taught me how to get by in life was optional, that presents a problem. However, because I am so well prepared on the academic side of college, I have a lot more time to learn about the responsibilities of adulthood. I’m already accustomed to having a homework load, so I’m able to finish in time to work two jobs or just hang out around campus. I’ve met people that are much more diverse at work and in college than the group of mostly Asian and mostly Christian private school students that I spent nine years with.

Hawaiʻi Baptist Academy had its upsides and downsides. My entire graduating class is closely knit and many of the teachers are unforgettable. Without some of my friend’s and teacher’s help, I probably wouldn’t be able to juggle as many classes as I’m taking now and pass all of them. While I would never trade my alma mater for another high school in a million years, the real world is a bit grittier than I was let on to. However, that downside doesn’t come anywhere near outweighing the academic advantages that HBA provided. College may not be as important as my high school built it up to be, but it’s becoming increasingly more necessary in getting a good job. As I mentioned earlier, nobody’s ever ready to take on the responsibilities of life, but I think HBA prepared me enough for college that I can figure everything else out on my own from there.